William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Burlington of the second creation, became the 7th Duke of Devonshire in 1858. He was grandson of the 6th Duke's uncle, Lord George Cavendish.

An accomplished scholar, he became Chancellor of London University at the age of 28, later Chancellor of Cambridge University and founder of the Cavendish Laboratory there.

In 1829 the Duke married Lady Blanche Howard, granddaughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, and favourite niece of the 6th Duke. Together they had five children, but Blanche died in 1840, aged just 29. She was mourned by her husband and her uncle for the rest of their lives.

Chatsworth was a quiet place during the 7th Duke's tenure as he imposed strict economies after the extravagance of his predecessor. He did however invest heavily in the development of Eastbourne and Barrow-in-Furness.

The 7th Duke died in 1891 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Spencer Cavendish.

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